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5 Questions for James Overbaugh

December 12, 2011 |  8:00 am


Chef James Overbaugh is the executive chef at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. Overbaugh, previously executive chef at Chateau du Sureau, oversees all of the hotel's dining, including room service, catering, special events, the Rooftop Garden and the Belvedere restaurant. Overbaugh uses fresh, seasonal ingredients, bringing in flavors from around the world. Menu highlights from Overbaugh's restaurants include spiced eggplant with vadouvan and citrus farro and grilled Scottish Loch Duart salmon with Asian pears and warm radicchio-mizuna salad.

What’s coming up next on your menu? My mind is in the cellar -- the root cellar that is! I'm thinking turnips, parsnips and more interesting roots such as salsify (oyster plant). Of course right now we're focused on the holidays -- and planning a goose terrine on Christmas Eve and a stunning caviar and shellfish "extravaganza" for New Year's.

Latest ingredient obsession? Osmazome.What's that, you ask? According to early 19th century French writer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, it is essentially the goodness of meat which, as it browns, makes the savory reddish tinge in sauces and the crisp coating on roasted meat. Can you buy it? No, but extracting the best out of your winter roasts and cuts of meat and honoring the spirit of this concept goes a long way in one's cooking.
What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again? Tlapazola Grill on the Westside -- great Oaxacan food that is some of the best in L.A. The entire menu is great. I advise trying everything!

Favorite kitchen soundtrack? I'm a classical music fan and often compare culinary art to classical music, as the nuances and complexities are what create the total experience. When cooking at home I find classical music inspires. Italian food begets Verdi, French requires Debussy.... Of course sometimes when I have some heavy cooking to do I hit the stoves with the Rolling Stones.

The last cookbook you read –- and what inspired you to pick it up? I'm well on my way through Clifford Wright's "A Mediterranean Feast." At 800 pages it is taking me a while, plus I keep stopping to try new recipes out. Why did I pick it up the first time? It's the type of book just owning it makes you feel like a better cook.


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Photo: Chef James Overbaugh at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. Credit: The Peninsula Beverly Hills